Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Lupe Fiasco - The Cool: Review
Lupe’s new record, The Cool, is a dense and remarkable record. Other than maybe Graduation, nothing sounds anything like it this year. The post apocalypse pop funk of post-Graduation Chicago hip hop is full in effect on The Cool. The production on the record handled mostly by Soundtrakk and Lupe’s F&F weed carriers is full of synthetic strings, violins, off-beat samples, sweeping hooks and boom bap drum kicks, this album is the sister album to Kanye’s latest masterpiece. Its a better record as well. For one, Lupe is thrice the emcee than Kanye even wishes he could be. He employs a swift, nimble flow that darts around the beats and not only is technically flashy but is able to utilize dense and often difficult metaphors. It also a darker and more savage record than Graduation. The beats are darker, muddier and outside of the fantastic lead single, “Superstar”, there is nothing as joyous as “Stronger” and “Good Life” on the record. Lupe has much bigger fish to fry on this album.
Following the en vogue trend of hip hop concept albums, The Cool tells a loose story of “The Cool”, the undead hustler first introduced on Food & Liquor, as he navigates the world being lured into the temptations of the nefarious, “The Game” and “The Streets.” This concept allows Lupe wax poetic about a variety of social and personal ills. However, it’s a testament to Lupe’s talent that it doesn’t sound preachy, pandering, nor pretentious. Lupe is able to work in moments of sly comedic asides in an otherwise darker than dark rap record. Take for example the somewhat unjustly maligned early street single “Dumb It Down.” Outside the context of the album, the song appears somewhat annoyingly self-righteous and assholic with a shallow and obvious message of the evils of selling yourself out for radio but within the confines of the record, it appears to be the perfect counterfoil to the dark melodrama of the rest of the record. The chorus becomes defiant instead of self-righteous as he lets the genius of the rest of the record contrast the ignorant pleas of the the streets and white record labels to dumb down his music because it’s either not “what’s poppin’ in the streets” or “it’s shedding to much light.” It works so much better when it’s surrounded by the rest of the work.
As for the songs on the record themselves, there ain’t a weak song within the bunch which is pretty remarkable when you consider that even Kanye, Jay-Z and Little Brother had one or two weak songs on an otherwise fantastic albums. I personally really like “Paris, Toyko” which either proves that Lupe is absolutely full of shit when he says he’s not a fan of A Tribe Called Quest because the song is vintage Tribe or after the events of Fiascogate, Lupe was basically shamed into listening to Midnight Marauders because this song sounds exactly like “Electric Relaxation.” If you are gonna bite, bite from the best. “Little Weapon” is another highlight as it’s a powerful, epic anti-gun screed with haunting Gregorian-esque chanting and a dark satanic vibe. On other notes, “Hip Hop Saved My Life” tells the story of a Houston Mike Jones-clone rapper who falls to the temptation of “The Streets.”
I’m actually kind of mad at Lupe after listening to this record. The Cool has completely screwed up Part II of my Year End Wrap-Up that I was planning to release very soon as he messed up my rankings for the best albums and songs of the year. I haven’t had enough time with the record to determine if its better than that new Ghostface, UGK, or Little Brothers this year. My gut tells me this could be better than all of them but I need three or four more listens to be sure. Anyway, this record is triumph for Lupe as he reached the promised land of rappers. This might just go down as Lupe’s Midnight Marauders after all. Fuckin’ A.